Delhi Riots Committee formed by Delhi Assembly to probe social media giants’ omissions unconstitutional: Centre, Facebook tell Supreme Court

As per Central Government and Facebook, The Peace and Harmony Committee constituted by the Delhi Legislative Assembly to probe the Delhi riots of February 2020 is unconstitutional.

The aim of the committee is to examine the role of social media giants like Facebook in failing to curb hate speech which allegedly fueled the riots. It contended that this committee could not have been constituted by the Delhi state government since they do not have a jurisdiction.. Mehta aforesaid that if the Committee is not held unconstitutional, then other States will also start interfering with subjects which are not within their domain beneath the garb of cooperative federalism.

The submissions came during a plea by Facebook India and its Vice President and Managing Director, Ajit Mohan challenging notices issued by the Committee which sought Mohan’s presence before the panel as part of its inquiry into the Delhi riots.

Mehta’s submissions were echoed by Senior Counsel Arvind Datar who, appearing for Facebook, argued that the “very constitution of this Committee was unconstitutional.”

Datar pointed out to Article 239AA(3)(a) as per which Delhi Assembly does not have power to deal with entries 1 and 2 of the State list which relates to public order and police.The Delhi state government does not have the power to summon witnesses in relation to a subject in the Union List and they cannot make any committee to go into a subject which is outside their jurisdiction under the Constitution. Conversely, Parliament conjointly also cannot summon witnesses in a matter which is in State list, Datar added.

The Bench questioned the Centre as to why the Court should go into the constitution of the committee which is an internal matter of the assembly.
Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said that the issue before the Court is whether such a committee can compel a private person to appear before it or not.

Both Datar and Mehta concluded their arguments today. Senior Counsel Dr. AM Singhvi will commence submissions on behalf of Delhi Assembly on Wednesday.

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